The Saban 250: 20 Crimson Tide Defensive Players to Remember

BamaCentral marks the end of the Nick Saban coaching era with the definitive rankings of his top 250 players with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Wayne Gallman (9) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Joshua Frazier (69) and Dalvin Tomlinson (54) during the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers running back Wayne Gallman (9) is tackled by Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Joshua Frazier (69) and Dalvin Tomlinson (54) during the second quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports / Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Andy Staples is one of the leading authorities on college football, and for years he used to work for Sports Illustrated. The gig meant that he was a frequent visitor in Tuscaloosa, and its’ restaurants, during the Nick Saban years, but also with many of the other top programs. When reporters were allowed on the sidelines near the end of games, he’d often go down to the field and say the same thing about Alabama, which with the win already secured was usually playing its second- and third-string reserves: “Look at the size of that guy.”

He’d be talking about the backup players, who were finally getting a chance to show what they could do, and usually looked just as imposing as the starters. To paraphrase, Staples would summarize with something like: “That’s the difference between Saban’s teams and everyone else.”

Saban used to try and downplay the idea of starters in public, in part because it would often lead to a player complaining in his office about the depth chart and playing time. There are scores of roles on every football team, and keeping everyone content was a constant challenge.

With that in mind, this segment of The Saban 250, honoring the players who made the biggest impact during the coaches’ reign atop college football, is dedicated to players like defensive tackle Joshua Frazier.

Like most linemen, the highly regarded prospect out of Springdale, Ark. began his Crimson Tide career near the bottom of the depth chart. He developed, earned playing time in the rotation and became a key reserve. Frazier just couldn’t crack the starting lineup, though.

In 2017, Frazier’s senior year, Alabama’s three-man defensive line (the fourth player with his hand down was usually an end/linebacker, a position Saban called “Jack”) included future NFL players  Da’Ron Payne, Isaiah Buggs, Raekwon Davis and Da’Shawn Hand. There was also an extremely talented player coming off a redshirt named Quinnen Williams, who was turning heads.

"I think Josh is playing the best football he’s played since he’s been here,” Saban said in 2017.  “I think he’s in better shape. Josh is really a run- stopping nose guard type guy for us who plays a lot more when we play against regular teams, which these guys are in regular a lot, which means we play regular. We play some in nickel. We don’t play him a lot in pass-rush situations.

“When he’s gone in there he’s done a good job for us. He’s someone you can count on to do exactly what you expect to get from him.”

Under those circumstances, a lot of players would have been looking for the door. Yet Frazier kept plugging away as Alabama eventually won the national championship. He was credited with 28 career tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and two sacks, along with a forced fumble and three passes defended.

But here are two things of note that were much more telling about Frazier than any statistic:

  • At season’s end he was one of the recipients of the team’s Iron Man Award.
  • He was still selected in the 2018 NFL Draft, in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

For every spotlight player who helped Alabama reach the pinnacle in college football, there were others just as critical to the team’s overall success. Guys like Frazier.

20 Defensive Players Not to Forget ...

The Saban 250 includes 50 players who many not have had the strongest statistics for the Crimson Tide, including 20 on offense and defense, and 10 on special teams.

Jihaad Campbell, LB, 2022-23*

Played in 13 games with eight starts as a sophomore last season and finished third on the team with 66 tackles, including four for loss and half a sack, to go with three quarterback pressures, three pass breakups and an interception. Named the Nagurski Trophy National Player of the Week after notching 10 tackles and returning a fumble 24 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee.

Marcus Carter, S, 2007

As a safety, was credited with 50 tackles during Nick Saban’s first season, including 1.5 for a loss, plus two passes defended and a forced fumble.

Shyheim Carter, 2016-19

Played in 50 career games with 23 starts at star (slot defender). Carter was credited with 43 total tackles, including 2.5 for loss, along with seven pass breakups and a forced fumble as a senior. He went out on a high note, getting an interception during his final game, against Michigan

Denzel Devall, OLB, 2012-15

Notched 83 tackles, including 14 for a loss and six sacks, with three passes defended and two forced fumbles. Of all of Saban's players at Alabama, might have had the widest smile

Jerrell Harris, LB, 2008, 2010-11

Started at strongside linebacker on the 2011 defense and was credited with 29 tackles including 3.5 for a loss. Made 59 career stops, including 4.5 for a loss

Dillon Lee, LB, 2012-15

Played four years at Alabama. Was credited with 67 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and one sack. Also had three interceptions and one fumble recovery, and returned a blocked kick for a touchdown against Colorado State in 2013

Will Lowery, S, 2010-11

The 5-10, 180-pound safety went from being a walk-on to landing a starter role in 2010. He was credited with 53 career tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended

Trezmen Marshall, LB, 2023

Transferred from Georgia for final year and recorded 56 total tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and 2.5 sacks, to go with one quarterback pressure and a fumble recovery  

Jared Mayden, S, 2016-19

Developed into a starter during his final season and finished tied for second in the SEC with four interceptions. He also had 59 tackles, including one for loss, with three pass breakups. For his career, had 81 tackles, including three for a loss and one sack, to go with four interceptions and six passes defensed

Jaylen Moody, LB, 2018-2022

Returned for a fifth season in 2022 and earned the starting weakside linebacker spot. Played in 10 games with eight starts while battling injuries and was credited with 50 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss and two sacks, plus a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery

Arkansas State punter Cody Grace (41) scrambles to get a punt away after fumbling the snap as Alabama linebacker Jamey Mosley (16) pressures him in first half action at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday September 8, 2018.
Arkansas State punter Cody Grace (41) scrambles to get a punt away after fumbling the snap as Alabama linebacker Jamey Mosley (16) pressures him in first half action at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday September 8, 2018. / Mickey Welsh

Jamey Mosley, OLB, 2016-18

Went from walk-on status to earning a scholarship, to being a regular contributor who made a handful of starts. Saw extensive playing time in the 2018 postseason, especially after Christian Miller suffered an injury

Darren Mustin, ILB, 2007

Transferred from Middle Tennessee State and ended up being Alabama’s starting middle linebacker during Nick Saban’s first season. Had 79 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss and a sack. Also made two interceptions

Eli Ricks, CB, 2022

If only. Transferred to Alabama after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury at LSU. However, he also had to deal through injuries with the Crimson Tide, as well, and started in five of the nine games he played. His totals were a paltry 13 tackles, four pass breakups

Cory Reamer, OLB, 2007-09

Two-year starter at strongside linebacker, who finished with 88 career tackles, including 13.0 for a loss, three sacks, an interception and a forced fumble

Ali Sharrief, DB, 2007-09

Began his Alabama career as a running back, but moved to safety during Nick Saban’s first season and became a regular contributor. Over his final three seasons was credited with 73 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and six passes defended

Saivion Smith, DB, 2018

Played one season at Alabama. As a junior he appeared in 15 games with 12 starts, posting 60 tackles, three interceptions (led the team), five passes defensed and one forced fumble. He then declared for the NFL draft

Chavis Williams, LB, 2007-10

Remember during the national championship game at the end of the 2011 season when Nick Saban famously yelled at a player for getting a penalty during the final minute? It was Williams, who played in 31 games for the Crimson Tide, primarily as a role player. It was especially ironic, though, because Williams knew the defense as well as anyone else on the team. Even the veterans looked to him for calls and adjustments

Jarrick Williams, S, 2010-14

Made 59 tackles over four seasons, including 2.5 tackles for a loss and one sack. Also had five passes defended

Daniel Wright, S, 2017-20

Made 114 career tackles, including three for a loss and one sack. During his final season he worked primarily in the Crimson Tide's third-down packages and on special teams. He played in 58 career games

... and, of course, Joshua Frazier, DT, 2014-17


The Saban 250: 20 Offensive Players Not to Forget ...

Tomorrow: 10 Special Teams Players Not to Forget ...


Published
Christopher Walsh

CHRISTOPHER WALSH

Christopher Walsh is the founder and publisher of BamaCentral, which first published in 2018. He's covered the Crimson Tide since 2004, and is the author of 26 books including Decade of Dominance, 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Nick Saban vs. College Football, and Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide's Road to College Football Immortality. He's an eight-time honoree of Football Writers Association of America awards and three-time winner of the Herby Kirby Memorial Award, the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s highest writing honor for story of the year. In 2022, he was named one of the 50 Legends of the ASWA. Previous beats include the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Originally from Minnesota and a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he currently resides in Tuscaloosa.